If you think gasoline prices are out of control here in the U.S. you’ll get no sympathy from the Brits who’ve been paying upwards of $1.40/liter (that’s nearly $6/gallon yo!) for several years now. As a result, diesel powered cars — which get better mileage and have lower overall emissions — have grown very popular.
So why in the world aren’t we all driving diesels over here?
Here’s why. What’s the first thing you thought of when you heard “diesel car”? If you’re like most Americans, you thought about big giant pickup trucks which are excessively loud and driven by rednecks that appear to derive a special enjoyment from engulfing your car in a gigantic cloud of noxious black smoke whenever you get anywhere near them.
Or maybe you remembered when you were 16 and got your first job at the local McDonald’s and some redneck hick comes through the drive through and orders a “rumble-rumble-rumble.” And when you kindly ask the hick to turn off their engine, rather than complying they rev their engine and curse you out. Then you spit in their fries and put a little rat hair in their burger.
Okay… maybe MOST people don’t think that, but I certainly do. Growing up, rednecks in oversized pickup trucks that belched black smoke everywhere and were so freakin’ loud you couldn’t hear yourself think were the only diesel-powered consumer vehicles I ever saw. So the whole idea of every person’s car being powered by a loud, black-smoke spewing diesel engine made me cringe.
Then, later on in life, I learned that it’s actually possible to build a comparatively clean-burning and quiet diesel engine that is still more powerful and more efficient than a gas engine. And yet, the diesel has been ignored in America save for those who have an affinity for exhaust pipes large enough to fit medium-sized dogs (or little children) into and who just seem to love to torment folks such as myself with huge clouds of choking black smoke and excessively loud engines.
Oh yeah, and those few folks who actually get a diesel truck for the extra torque, power, hauling capacity and other legitimate reasons.
It was in the 90′s that I read an article about a car that Volkswagen developed. It was a small hatchback (very much like the Rabbit) powered by a three cylinder turbo diesel. It was rated at 65mpg… better than any hybrid available in the States at the time! But it was sold exclusively in Europe. I guess America wasn’t deemed ready for it.
I have since changed my misguided hatred for the diesel and come to wish we had more of it here in the U.S. And maybe, just maybe, the Loremo (a crazy acronym that stands for Low Resistance Mobile… yeah, it’s European, can you tell?) will change American attitudes regarding the diesel.
While the cost of a typical hybrid either puts it out of reach or makes it undesirable for most folks, the 150 mpg Loremo — with an expected price tag of $22,000 — is designed for the masses. And with the ability travel more than 5x farther on each gallon of fuel than even “high efficiency” gas-powered cars, for every 1,000 miles you travel, you’ll be saving approximately $79 (based on $2.95/gallon versus a 30 mpg vehicle).
That means a savings of nearly $1,000 per year for the average driver and quite a bit more than that for the majority of commuters.
Wanna get really crazy? Power it with bio-diesel and not only will you have the most efficient zero-emission car in town, but the sweet smell of your exhaust will have everybody asking you where you’re hiding the burritos.
Now, the environmentally friendly (though not so friendly to those who like their Hummers) residents of upscale Washington towns and other like-minded persons won’t have any problem with the 20 horsepower two-cylinder turbo LS model that is being introduced to the U.K. next year. But for the rest of America, they expect to produce a 50 horsepower (only slightly wimpier than my old 1985 Mazda 626 which rated about 65 HP) three-cylinder turbo GT model that will do 0-60 in half the time, yet still break 80 mpg.
Slated for a 2010 release in the States, let’s hope they actually follow through.
Only problem? No automatic transmission, so I guess I won’t be getting one